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USAT National Championships - TriathlonOlympic

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama
United States
Total Time = 2h 35m 10s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

The 40-44 AG started late (around 8:09 with the first wave going off at 7:15 am) which provided the opportunity to watch others waves start ... and then struggle with the swim.

The quality of athletes at this race was amazing. It reminds me of seeing score after score of uber-fit athletes walk around prior to Ironman Florida. I felt 'out of place' and knew that it was going to be a fast field.
Event warmup:

Not much to do while waiting, I stretched some and eventually got to jump into the water to try to acclimate to both the warm water temp and the ever-present current.

  • 39m 55s
  • 1640 yards
  • 02m 26s / 100 yards

I knew trouble was amiss when you literally had to hold onto the dock in order not to get swept downstream.

I seeded myself on the back corner of the dock as that was only because that is the only place I could find to hold on to. Purposely kept my downstream pace in check knowing that I had to conserve ernergy for the salmon like swim upstream.

Even though I knew there was a current I was not prepared for what I encountered at the first turn buoy. The current was palpable, dragging at your body during the cross course to the other side of the river.

Not used to swimming in a current and knowing how strong it was in pushing me downstream, I knew that I was in for a long day ... and that all hopes of my goal were gone. Mentally this was tough for me and I had to slay demons in order to try to stay positive.

I swam past the upstream turn buoy looking to get out of the current but it was everywhere. Mental toughness came in to play here as I would sight a landmark on shore, swim 15-20 stroke and then see the same landmark still right there! I'd look over to the right to see the dock, put my head down and then look up some time later to see the dock right there! During this time I felt my left toes start to cramp and I continued to struggle upstream though what was pretty warm water.

I overswam the upstream turn buoy by 10-20m knowing that the current was going to push me downstream. This enabled me to swim cross current with a slight downstream push and I landed right at the swim exit boat ramp.

What would you do differently?:

Swimming in the current was completely new for me ... and played mental games with me unnecessarily. Negative thoughts to creep in while I struggled upstream. This would cause me to dig deeper ... and then 'blow-up' through the exertion.

I know that swim efficiency and therefore speed is a function of relaxing in the water but forcing yourelf to actually do it is another thing. Add to all of that the fact that you cannot really "glide" after your hand-entry and you have a whole different swim situation to also contend with.
Transition 1
  • 02m 29s

Transition was up the hill and some stairs from the river bank. T1 time was not stellar (2:26) as I was still dazed by the swim. When I came in range of my Garmin, it showed my HR at Zone 5.1

I saw that many if not most bikes were out of transition and that caused some more mental anguish at goofing-up the swim so royally.
What would you do differently?:

In retrospect I should have waited to have the Gu on the first miles of the bike but was worried about the cramping.

  • 1h 06m 8s
  • 24.85 miles
  • 22.55 mile/hr

Mad that the swim cost me an extra 15 minutes from my Chattanooga time, I sprinted out of transition to do a flying jump mount on the bike. It was a good thing that I was fired up because I doubt that would have worked at any other time.

I pedaled out of fury and swim frustration for the first 5 miles through the uphill grade. I looked at my Garmin to see 27 mph going up the false flat after the first turn-around. I knew that I was unnecessarily burning matches and forced myself to settle down.

While lacking a hill to write home about, there was not a flat section on the course as the road grade was never level. The ascents were grinders that clawed at your quads and the descent not enough where you could recover as there were still gears you could push.

While I finished with what is often a respectible average, I was passed by some at a rate that reminded me that I was completely out of their league.

My left calf shuddered with muscle spasms during part of a climb and I worried that combined with the toe crampage on the swim was a harbinger of things to come on the run. I took 4 SaltStick tabs during the course of the hour ride.

I ended the ride with my first flying dismount which was uncharacteristically executed well.

Transition 2
  • 01m 5s

All-in-all, not a bad transition as I focused on just plain getting out of there as quickly as possible
  • 45m 39s
  • 6.21 miles
  • 07m 21s  min/mile

The run was on the parkway that ran along the river with three out and back jaunts up hills perpendicular to the water.

By this point, my legs were fried as I had more aerobic capacity than legs to run. Despite how deep I tried to dig I could not will myself to sustain a higher foot cadence and faster pace.

Mentally I tried to check-out of the pounding of the run so that I could stay positive. I said encouraging words to those I passed (very few in my AG), I looked around, I did whatever it took to allow my body to maintain a rhythym without mental inference of just how much I wanted to stop to walk.

In the end, I dug even deeper for the final mile averaging ~7:15-7:20/mi ... I just wanted to get done and knew the more I pushed it the sooner I could stop.

According to Garmin, the course was about 0.20-0.30/mi short. I know that the Garmin has diffculty distinguishing true distances over mild grades so there is some fudge factor in there ... that said, I think my average was more along the 48 min 10k pace than 45 minutes. As such I am not going to claim what would be a PR for this distance.

Post race
Event comments:

A lot of folks, including me, complained about the current ... but it is what it was: something completely out of the control of USAT. It is just another example of having to deal with what is thrown at you on race day.

This was, by far, the toughest Olympic distance race I have done. Not being a swimmer by nature, it challenged me physically. Competing against a field that was by definition all 'Front of Packers' was more mentally difficult than I would have originally thought as I kept getting that 'I am out of place' feeling.

In the end I was able to post a respectible time given the awesome coaching received by Dan at Endurance Concepts. Hats off to him for preparing me for what was a grueling day in what was supposed to be just a tune-up race for Augusta.

Last updated: 2009-08-06 12:00 AM
00:39:55 | 1640 yards | 02m 26s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Bad
The swim is where it all started ... not just literally as the impact of the swim was felt throughout the race.
Course: The course was laid out as 125-150m downstream, 200-225m across and then 1200-1250m upstream.
Start type: Deep Water Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Below average
Breathing: Below average Drafting: Bad
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 02:29
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: Yes
Getting up to speed: Good
01:06:08 | 24.85 miles | 22.55 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Average
Wind: None
Course: Two loop course that largely paralleled the river. Roads were closed to traffic and in relatively good contition.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Below average
Gear changes: Average Hills: Good
Race pace: Hard Drinks: Just right
Time: 01:05
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes Good
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
00:45:39 | 06.21 miles | 07m 21s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance: Good
Course: Think the course was short by 0.20-0.30 of a mile.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2009-08-23 12:36 PM

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Vestavia Hills
Subject: USAT National Championships

2009-08-23 2:23 PM
in reply to: #2364947

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Atlanta, GA
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships

Great RR...good to get everything down in writing on those rough days.  You adapted well and pushed through the bad spots.  The swim must have been epic.    On to Augusta!

2009-08-23 8:15 PM
in reply to: #2364947

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Johns Creek, Georgia
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
Great job not giving up, especially on the swim with toe cramps.  That couldn't have made it any easier.  I did the same thing as you, swam upstream after the last turn to try to beat the current pushing me downstream.  I wasn't quite as successful as you, but was better than most of the poor people I saw downstream struggling.  There's always next year!
2009-08-23 9:15 PM
in reply to: #2364947

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Sous Mon Diadème
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships

Very respectable, indeed!  Sounds like the swim was a beast but congratulations on pushing through and finishing strong. 

2009-08-23 9:26 PM
in reply to: #2365619

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Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
nice race!  that current has brutal........swimming in place is fun!! 
2009-08-24 5:10 AM
in reply to: #2364947

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Extreme Veteran
Greenwood, SC
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
Sounds like you did an awesome job out there! Wow, what a run! Great job in not giving up even after a hard swim. Shows what a great athlete and competitor you are.

2009-08-24 8:48 AM
in reply to: #2364947

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Cycling Guru
Fulton, MD
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
Nice work Brian!

Sounds like it was a tough race and you put up a great time!  Congrats!
2009-08-24 8:48 AM
in reply to: #2364947

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Calgary, Alberta
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
Congratulations Brian!  What a brutal sounding swim but a very impressive bike and run.  You are speedy!  Steve
2009-08-24 3:45 PM
in reply to: #2364947

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Subject: RE: USAT National Championships

Nice race out there.  Not sure I believe you that you about the mental anguish because you never show it on the outside.  One thing I like about seeing you on a race course (even if you do catch up after starting 20 minutes after me ) is your innate ability to always have something encouraging to say.

2009-08-24 8:58 PM
in reply to: #2364947

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Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
What an amazing day! I know you wanted to go there and put your absolute best effort in with an incredible time. The swim just botched that all up. Great job making it turn into something that you could still be proud of.

Just think how easy that current aided swim in Augusta is going to feel.
2009-08-25 12:06 PM
in reply to: #2364947

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Roswell, GA
Subject: RE: USAT National Championships
Great race Brian - your run was amazing.  Way to keep a good attitude out there too!

And yes - next year is the year for revenge!

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